Saturday, December 31, 2005

Days of Long Ago

It is my custom on this holiday to stay put in my own home on this night of celebration out of the way of dangerous drivers and other odd incidents/accidents that seem to always happen. On this New Year’s Eve I will be warm and dry here at The Hideaway, curled up on the couch with sleeping dogs at my feet and a cat in my lap. I’ll sort through my Memory Box and remember all my wonderful friends scattered across this country and even overseas. I’ll drink a toast to them and to the great Scottish poet Robbie Burns who is credited with this poem:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And ne’er be brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Farewell to Ought Five and Welcome to Ought Six!

Friday, December 30, 2005


As the year draws to a close, so too does a phase of my life. Today the sale of Terrapin Station was finalized and there are new owners ready to take possession. The dreamed-of cash offer was accepted on November 25th, the day after Thanksgiving. Since then the buyers and the realtor have been going through all the steps and stages required by the people who care about the legalities. As with any business deal, I am glad the process is concluded. I feel extremely fortunate that, in a place the housing boom passed by, I was able to sell my place in just four short months. And for cash with no mortgage approval or irksome inspections. Retirees from California will be the next occupants. This should be good news.

But tonight there is sadness in my heart as I say good-bye to a place where I spent some very happy times. I remember arriving there so tired and weary after four days of cross-country driving with two cats and finding a box turtle on the doorstep. I remember the Christmas Eve I brought home a little tiny Black Lab puppy to ease my loneliness. I remember the spring surprise when the lilac bloomed and the redbud tree turned fuschia. I remember sitting in the dugout cellar while a thundering tornado passed overhead. I remember taking my feline friend Rocky on his last drive at age 20. I remember good friends who shared my joys and eased my worries and spent many hours drinking tea or chai in my little cottage. I remember the lazy rhythm of summer days and the chilly mornings of frosty winters, the wild colors of fall and the thousand greens of spring.

My memories are precious and some of them I recorded in Down Home Musings during my last summer in the Ozarks. I have photos and memorabilia to keep the memories alive. Now a new adventure beckons and I will make new memories here with my children in the Pacific Northwest. But there will always be a special spot in my heart for Terrapin Station.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Go Ducks!

Today the University of Oregon plays the University of Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. 5:00 p.m. (PST) on ESPN. The Ducks have won 10 of 11 and seem to be on a roll. Let’s hope they roll to victory over those Sooners. Go Ducks!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Rain On the Roof

This is a day to stay in and I am grateful it just happens to be one of the last that I will be able to do that for the next three months. The drumming of the relentless rain on the roof discourages me from a planned trip to the library. I’m snug in my Uggs and wrapped in my new fleece Christmas blanket. Crocheting (a change of pace from knitting) and reading Pine Island Paradox, a gift from a friend. A cup of Trader Joe’s Peppermint Tea (another gift) and nice non-holiday music on the radio. Earlier I caught the noon news on TV and dramatic images of:

San Francisco…high tides and heavy rains

The Sierra…heavy, wet snow

Oklahoma & Texas…wildfires and high winds

Central Midwest…more chilly high winds coming

Wood Village…torrential rain, mid 40s, no wind (that’s a switch!)

We are engulfed by weather. And Mother Nature continues to remind us of her power and might, lest we forget the tsunami of one year ago and Katrina four months ago. Loss and devastation wreaked unsparingly. Wherever you are, I hope you are as safe and warm as I am.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day

Today we acknowledge a celebration that originated in England. Boxing Day is so called because on this day it was customary for tradesmen to collect their Christmas boxes or gifts in return for good service throughout the year. Also, it included giving money and other gifts to charitable institutions, and the needy. The holiday may date from as early as the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is not known. It may have begun with the Lords and Ladies of England, who gave Christmas boxes/gifts to their servants on December 26, or maybe by priests, who opened the church's alms (charity boxes), and distributed.

In America it has taken on the odd meaning of returning gifts that need to be exchanged. Whatever…it is a time to be with family. A time to eat leftovers from the big dinner yesterday and not have to cook. A time to wear or use the gifts received. Here at The Hideaway, we will eat leftover lasagna and more of the fabulous fattening desserts from our Christmas Feast. We'll wear new socks and wrap up in new fleece blankets. We’ll all be together, working our latest 1000 piece puzzle, playing games, listening to music, and just relaxing. Later in the day we will take the dogs to the park and come back for hot Chai Lattes.

From our home to yours…best wishes for a warm and wonderful day.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Wishing you peace, joy and happiness…

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

A time for drawing close to family and friends, near and far, and thinking of the gifts of love and friendship that have been given all year. I am very blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. I am fortunate to have a cozy safe warm home close to my children, a job to help meet the expenses of retirement, a car that starts and runs, skills to create beautiful things, and (so far) all my senses functioning and all my wits about me. I wish you all a happy holiday season. Tonight I will send special thoughts to each of you.

And don’t forget…the quicker you fall asleep, the quicker Santa will come!

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Dollhouse

Christmas 1943 was a bleak time during World War II. Rationing had taken its toll and it was difficult to get many common items like sugar or real butter. This meant the cookie making was cancelled. I was only six years old and I was very disappointed. My mother made the most delicious fudge and divinity, but not this year.

We did have our trip downtown to see the Laughing Santa in the window of Emery Bird Thayer department store. And to visit the “real” Santa up on the fifth floor. I remember going up to whisper in the fat man’s ear that all I wanted was a dollhouse. I thought he agreed I had been a pretty good girl most of the time.

Riding the streetcar on the way home, I daydreamed of the dollhouse that would be under the tree. I was sure beyond a doubt that Santa was convinced and would bring it despite the war and all the bad things that were happening.

One day, closer to Christmas, my mother left me alone in the house for a few minutes while she went to the post office to mail her Christmas cards. I took advantage to sneak up into the attic and check out the very large package I had seen my father bring in one night after I was supposed to be in bed. There it was! The dollhouse!! I was so excited I could hardly keep it to myself that I had discovered it.

It was hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. I could hear the sounds of my parents putting up the tree, and the rustle of paper as they wrapped presents on the dining room table. Finally my eyelids got heavy and I drifted off. When I woke up in the morning, I could smell the coffee and I knew my parents were up and waiting for me to come out and see the tree and open presents.

This was going to be the magic moment of my life and my first “acting” job as I had to pretend to be surprised when I saw the dollhouse. So I ventured out into the living room ready to gasp in awe when I saw the wonderful gift. But I didn’t see it. Where was it?

At first I thought maybe it was behind the tree, or hidden in the den, or behind the couch. But no…there were several presents but no dollhouse. That year I got a fuzzy hat and mittens, some new snow pants, a doll from my Aunt Clara, a coloring book from my sister in New York. But no dollhouse. I will tell you that turned out to be a challenging acting job to hide my disappointment.

I never mentioned that Christmas to my parents, but after they were gone I did ask my sister. She told me they wanted to give it to me, and had even bought it. But they had to take it back because my father didn’t get the Christmas bonus they were counting on. They just couldn’t afford it.

That Christmas disappointment has stayed with me my whole life. Throughout the years (many!) there have been wonderful gifts. But the one I remember is the one I didn’t get. And I think it was a life lesson learned early on that made me better able to accept the inevitable disappointments that came later. It sure quashed my belief in Santa.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Longest Night of the Year

Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, pulls us down into the resting season.

Time to sleep and dream.

Plant seeds of your dream world deep,

knowing the wheel turns,

the light returns,

the dreamer wakes

and the world rises renewed.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Looking For A Summer Job

This morning I am questioning the wisdom of choosing a job during tax season as a viable plan for income during my retirement. Tax season by definition is in the depth of winter during the darkest and worst weather months; and today, in the Pacific Northwest, winter is in full swing. If I thought I left it behind when I left Missouri…I’d better think again.

A raging ice storm is upon us and here at the mouth of The Gorge the winds are blowing 65 miles per hour. My trees are coated with ice crystals and my porch is a solid sheet of ice. I nearly came a cropper (there’s a down home expression!) when I started out for the paper. Luckily I am not without power as many people are. This is the first all-electric home I have ever lived in and the thought of no power is pretty scary. At least back in Osceola, as long as the tank was full, I had propane heat.

My storm kit is assembled. Flashlight, battery-powered radio, down coat, down sleeping bag, down comforter. Warm knit cap and mittens. I do have a little propane camp stove that I could use to heat water for tea or to warm up some tomato soup.

This was to be my first day at my new job and needless to say, I called in for a “weather day.” I want to stay in, warm and cozy (if the power stays on), and safe from the nasty elements. After the holidays, I am thinking of looking for a summer job!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Walla Walla Brothers

The winds from the East are racing down The Gorge and blasting everything in their path. Here at the West End we live in an icy wind tunnel. The earliest inhabitants of the lower Columbia, the Chinook, thought the wind was the breath of powerful beings who lived far away up the river. “Every sigh, whistle, moan or roar of the wind seemed to them to be the voice of its spirit,” wrote Ella E. Clark in her book “Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest.”

"The Chinook believed that the cold East Wind, the one that has been buffeting this area the past few days, was caused by the five Walla Walla brothers.” Clark wrote. According to the legend she tells, the wicked brothers to the east killed the five brothers who caused the warm west wind. Brave Chinook warriors took revenge leaving only one evil brother alive. Now the legend says, “the cold East Wind has blown only lightly.”

Well…Ella…define “lightly.” Today it is difficult to stand up. The wild winds will whip whatever you are holding right out of your hands, and be careful opening your car door. My neighbors sturdy wooden fence is strewn in pieces in the street. The neighborhood looks as if it has been “tee-peed” with plastic bags decorating all the trees. Combine these winds with the low temperatures being recorded this week and that puts the wind chill factor down in the single digits.

When I moved here I wasn’t sure if I would wear my Cabela down coat any more. Today I am glad I have it. I’ll pull that fake fur hood tight when I take the dogs for their walks today. I may have to tie rocks to my feet to keep from blowing away. Hopefully the remaining Walla Walla Brother will take a break for Christmas!

* Quotes and info from the Oregonian article by Doug Bates.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Penelope’s Web

Almost every week I make a trip to the Yarn Garden or the Craft Warehouse or the little place near my home in the back of a coffee shop. I cannot stop knitting. It consumes my time and for reasons I can’t really explain, I need to have something in progress all the time or I feel empty handed. I am reminded of the story of Penelope. You remember her…the wife of Ulysses, knitter and weaver of Greek mythology. Here is her story:

"Ulysses and Penelope had not enjoyed their union more than a year when it was interrupted by the events which called Ulysses to theTrojan war. During his long absence, and when it was doubtful whether he still lived, and highly improbable that he would ever return, Penelope was importuned by numerous suitors, from whom there seemed no refuge but in choosing one of them for her husband. Penelope, however, employed every art to gain time,still hoping for Ulysses' return. One of her arts of delay was engaging in the preparation of a robe for the funeral canopy of Laertes, her husband's father. She pledged herself to make her choice among the suitors when the robe was finished. During the day she worked at the robe, but in the night she undid the work of the day. This is the famous Penelope's Web, which is used as a proverbial expression for anything which is perpetually doing but never done." *

So I sit and knit. I have written of this before. I even put a pattern for a scarf here on the blog so you could join me. Try it. It is very soothing and relaxing. And remember….busy hands are happy hands.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Colonel Mustard in the Library…

…with the candlestick. How many years has it been since we played Clue? One of many games now stacked on the shelf in my dining room waiting to be played when we gather for the holidays. Games were a big part of my children’s growing up after we threw out the TV back in 1976. (Taking it to the dump may be one of the highlights of my life.) Monopoly, Chess, Cribbage, Scrabble, Dominoes are all-time favorites we still enjoy. In the kids’ younger years, we had our fill of Chutes and Ladders and Candyland. And card games like Old Maid and Go Fish. They advanced to Chinese Checkers and Uno. Later we loved Risk and Yahtzee and Sorry! This Thanksgiving we played Scene It, something new since the childhood years. In Osceola, visitors enjoyed Rummy Tile and playing Text Twist on the computer.

To say we are game players might be an understatement. We play to win and nobody gives an inch as they plot strategy and tricks. And we have kept an ongoing running tally of wins going back for years. When you open a game box, sheets fall out with scores from the 80’s. And Windy has kept photos of her winning Scrabble boards! We are serious about this, folks. So polish up your skills if you are coming for a visit. You will find yourself at the dining room table with some pretty expert players.

Even when I find myself here at home alone, like today, I can log on the computer and play Mah Jong. I keep track of my scores (of course) and try to break my own record. For a change of pace, I play Text Twist to warm up for the Daily Crossword. And then on to Jumble and Wonderword. I can fill up a whole day playing games.

Today I am caught up on errands and it’s a day to stay in (wind chill factor of 9 degrees!) and amuse myself with beating myself at whatever game I choose. Well…Clue is not much fun with only one player. I would already know it was Colonel Mustard. But Mah Jong is waiting.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Long Nights Moon

Another full moon hanging up in the sky, all fat and golden like the illustration in my childhood book, Wynken, Blynken and Nod. Two moons ago I was in Osceola, one moon ago I was just arriving here in Wood Village. The Indians who were here long before me, marked their lives by moons. They called the December moon the Full Long Nights Moon or the Cold Full Moon.

The full December moon is also known for typically being the full moon that takes the most northern path in our sky for the year. Because the moon is entering the Lunar Standstill Cycle, this December’s full moon will be the northernmost until 2023. Go outside and look up. Do you also see Orion and the bright star Betelgeuse? Look closer to the horizon. Do you see the dogstar Sirius? A cold clear night is perfect for gazing. If you don’t have a good star book (I do…a gift from a good friend years ago), try your daily paper or check out one of the many websites available.

It will be cold in The Gorge and the dogs’ water dish will freeze tonight if I forget to bring it in. It’s time for the down comforter and maybe a hot water bottle to warm the bed before I get in. But there are no drafts in this house and it will stay comfortable all night. I think of other cold nights…on The Ridge and at Terrapin Station. Places where heat was not always reliable and where I shivered through long nights more than once. Those days are over now, thanks to my children. I have a warm home base heated by electricity that does not come and go willy-nilly nor run out in the middle of the night or on a Sunday.

Tomorrow morning when I open the back door to let the dogs out, the setting full moon will be hanging over the western ridge, and the bare branches of my one deciduous tree will be silhouetted against it. A wonderful way to start the day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Dream Visit

It was just a year ago, during our annual Christmas season long distance phone call, that my childhood friend, Keppy, told me she was dying of inoperable cancer. The news was devastating as this wonderful woman had been a friend for over 50 years. And she was a true pioneer, breaking down barriers for women in the Episcopal Church and becoming one of the first women ordained as a priest.

Right after the phone call last December, I made her a shawl from soft yarn the color of the sea. She told me she could feel my love when she wrapped herself in it. I thought of her as I sat knitting and remembered so many times she and I had laughed together.

She died in August, just before the hurricane bearing her name hit New Orleans. She was not in pain thanks to wonderful hospice care, and her husband was with her and held her.

She came to me in my dreams last night and I could hear her laughter as I told her some of the stories of my move here and the adventures I have had since last summer when we last talked. In the dream we were in her kitchen in Coalinga, California where she and George lived when I was in Marin County and where we visited a couple of weeks before Christmas 1965. Forty years ago. We touched base in person or by phone every year since then.

Yes…loss is on my mind. I cannot escape it. Memories charge in and take over in my dreams if not when I am awake. It is hard not to think of her now. But I know her spirit is with me this season. My dream was our visit this year.

Monday, December 12, 2005


“Why,” a reader asks, “are you so focused on death?” Well…here is the answer. When you get to be my age (on the downhill side of the cusp), members of your generation are dying all around. You notice. You give thanks you are still on the right side of the grass. You wonder if people will say you have lived a good life, if you will be missed. What else you can accomplish before you check out.

This week we lost a great comedian, Richard Pryor. And a great politician (much revered in Oregon), Eugene McCarthy. Every year, TIME Magazine runs a section on the year’s losses and I am always stunned to see the names of those who have gone on. Likewise, the list of deceased classmates was much longer at this past summer’s Reunion.

It is hard to believe that the Sixties are so far gone, and the years have stretched out this far. When I was in high school in the fifties, we could hardly visualize life in the Roaring Twenties and the dress of that period became costumes for our talent shows. Applying the same principle, today’s high school students will be making fun of The 70’s (I think there is a TV show by that name). The 60’s have drifted into oblivion. Andy asked the students in his guitar class who John Lennon was and none of them knew.

I remember seeing the Beatles on the now-famous Ed Sullivan Show when I was pregnant with Scott who will turn 42 next March. His whole lifetime ago. I guess I am falling into the Old Lady Trap of memories and reminisces. But I do honor those who have gone before and made a difference, whether in music or politics or other endeavors. Who alive today will make a mark to be remembered? What musician or politician or influential figure? Let me know what you think.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Coming back from an event in the West Hills, I cross the Ross Island Bridge onto Powell and hit traffic. It’s Friday night, well into the Holiday Season, and it is bitter cold but not raining. Lots of cars are out tonight and it’s a slow-go inching from the Bridge out to the 205, stopping and starting as I approach each of the thousand stop lights along the way.

This gives me time to look at what I’m passing. At every Tri-Met stop passengers are waiting, huddled into themselves against the cold with collars turned up and hats pulled down. At one corner I pass a Laundromat, brightly lit and crowded with people doing one of life’s tedious chores.

It takes me back to San Francisco 1995, when I was living in the Cottage at Ocean Beach and riding the N Judah downtown to work and taking my laundry to the Laundery Matte [sic] at the corner of 46th and Judah next to the Lebanese pizza parlor. And waiting… waiting… waiting at the bus stop and for the clothes to dry.

Mornings waiting in the chilly ocean fog for the streetcar, pulling my trenchcoat tight around me. I had a snap brim black hat with a hidden scarf that pulled down and tied under my chin. I looked like someone out of Dick Tracy! My backpack with my book and my lunch over my shoulder, I would jostle for a place in the three-sided shelter that held two comfortably and seven or eight die-hards who were probably pretty good at Elevator Squeeze as well. It’s been years since I was knocked around like that so early in the morning. Nights were not so cold as my stop was underground at Montgomery Street. Still and all, I spent a lot of time waiting for the trolley. Waiting… waiting… waiting.

And always, at the end of the day, clothes piling up and waiting to be washed. A toss-up to choose whether to wait till Saturday when the place would be really crowded or drag out after work. There is no place more depressing than a Laundromat at night with the bright lights glaring and the machines spinning and the people all grumpy and discontent. Whatever time I chose, I would bundle my clothes into the wheeled shopping cart and trudge the two blocks for a couple of hours of madness. Reading with one eye, watching the dryer with the other so no one would steal my clothes or take them out while they were still wet so they could use my quarter. Waiting…waiting…waiting.

Driving by last night, I realized how fortunate I am to live in a home with a laundry room and two brand new beautiful machines. One of the things I hope to never do again is go to the Laundromat on a Friday night. Or any night. Or any day. No more waiting.

It is also nice to have a car with heat for a late night trip across the metro area. Although I’m a big fan of public transportation and continue to use it, on a cold windy night in a dark and strange town, I am happy to be safe in my SUV with heated seats. No more waiting.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Behind the Wheel With My ODL

Driving is a privilege you earn, not a right.” A quote from page one of the Oregon Driver Manual which I read cover to cover yesterday. 112 pages all together and maybe one of the most boring texts I’ve perused in awhile. Why bother? Well…I need an Oregon driver’s license and when I took the test the first time…I failed to pass.

What a shock. I thought perhaps fifty-four years of driving might have given me enough knowledge to pass it cold, but that turned out not to be the case. It really did help to read the manual which is a bit of a cliché, but true nevertheless.

The first time around, I did not know, for example how many seconds ahead do expert drivers scan the entire driving scene. Or what happens if you crash and you do not have liability insurance. Or how loud is too loud to play the car radio. Or if you or the deer had the right of way. Or that it takes 275’ to stop if you are going 55 miles per hour. Or the speed limit in alleys even if not posted.

Oh well…now I know those things. And others, and am considered a certifiable safe driver by the State who took my photo and wrote down my mother’s maiden name and kept my Missouri license which they will hopefully shred and not let fall into the hands of identity thieves.

It’s good for eight years and right now I hope I am around to renew it!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Elvis Has Left the Building

Without Googling, can you identify these dates? Don’t cheat. Send your answers to

If you don’t know what this is all about, you can request the answers by e-mailing the same address.

December 8, 1980

August 9, 1995

September 18, 1970

October 4, 1970

August 27, 1990

September 12, 2003

January 1, 1953

March 5, 1963

January 6, 1949

October 3, 1967

September 9, 1996

April 4, 1994

August 16, 1977

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Remember Pearl Harbor

I was four years old on December 7th, 1941 but I remember the day very clearly. It was a Sunday and my father had taken me to the park as he always did on that day of the week. I had a green hoop I liked to roll on the vast expanse of grass in Gilham Park. But on that particular day there was something extra, something special. Santa Claus came by on the streetcar that ran along the top of the hill, and good little boys and girls waited at the stop to tell him their wish for a Christmas present. We had been out in the cold for some time before the trolley came, and by the time we headed home we were both cold and looking forward to a cup of hot cocoa.

When we walked in the door of the apartment building, my mother was standing on the landing. Dressed in her Sunday navy blue polka-dot dress and pearls, she had her hand to her throat and a horrified look on her face. “Oh Clarence,” she said. “They have bombed Pearl Harbor.” My father bounded up the stairs and into the apartment where Mother had the radio on and chairs pulled up close beside it. They sat there in silence listening with rapt attention to the news that the country was at war.

To me it meant only that the hot cocoa was forgotten and that I had to be very quiet and not disturb them. I sat on the Oriental rug at their feet, coloring and hearing the voice of Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the nation. The phone rang and it was my sister calling from KU in Lawrence. She had found a ride and she was coming home to be with us at this time of tragedy.

All these years later, that day lingers in my mind. The feeling of the cold winter chill of our outing, the smell of pot roast cooking in the kitchen, the rasp of Roosevelt’s voice, the color green of the sweater my sister wore. I still have my mother’s pearls. And a copy of the Kansas City Star my father saved from December 8th, 1941.

On December 8th, we listened to the radio and heard the President give his now famous speech that began, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

“A date that will live in infamy.” And in my memory. Remember Pearl Harbor.

The Dining Room Furniture

Probably the longest ongoing relationship I have had with any thing or body is my connection to these pieces of walnut furniture. A table, four side chairs, two arm chairs, and a buffet. I have been dusting them since I was four years old and I know every turn and groove. My parents bought this furniture when they were married in 1920, eighty-five years ago last May. It has been in every home I have ever lived in.

You have read about this furniture before. It was on the minds of my children when they found this place for me to live in Oregon and in their thoughts when they picked the paint for the walls of the room where it sits so gracefully. It is where we gathered this year at Thanksgiving to reenact dinners of their childhood.

We pulled out one leaf and spread my grandmother’s “banquet-size” Irish linen cloth on it. We set the table with her dishes, beautiful Haviland china that has miraculously survived so many dinners and moves. How many people have sat upon these chairs, eaten from this board? And how many other activities have been shared here? Puzzles worked, homework done, craft projects made, games played, quilts sewed, late night and early morning cups of coffee. Always the center of activity.

Where the furniture now sits was originally supposed to be a “family room,” but the intended dining room is where I put my desk and computer and it is serving as my den. The switch-around works for how I live right now. So my dining room in the family room is dead ahead when you walk in the door, the first thing you see. Now that I have other spaces to put things and the children are adults with their own homes to hold their miscellany, it is free of clutter except for the centerpiece that changes with the seasons.

I oiled and polished it today. Part of the pre-holiday cleaning ritual instilled by my mother. I skip the silver polishing though, as we tend to use the everyday ware now. Polishing used to take up one whole day and leave my hands black. Unlike the china, the set of silver is no longer complete (someone must have forgotten to count the spoons after some dinner in the past) so it stays in the drawer.

On New Year’s Eve I will work a puzzle on the table. A tradition started some fifteen years ago when I gave up the social celebration and decided to stay home by myself and listen to music and have a quiet evening welcoming the New Year. Before then, I’ll spread out paper and ribbon and wrap Christmas presents. And our Solstice meal will be shared there. In between, coffee cake for a Sunday breakfast, a game of cribbage on a rainy evening, a stack of photos to sort and put in an album. It is a busy place, my dining room table.

I wish each of you could come and put your feet under it and spend some time with me in my new home.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dead Man Walking

Are you paying attention to crime and punishment in America? The one thousandth execution since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976 took place last Friday morning at 2:00 a.m. when North Carolina killed Kenneth Boyd. Many cheered.

And waiting on Death Row in California’s San Quentin prison is Tookie Williams, scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on December 13th for four murders he was convicted of committing 25 years ago. Cheers again.

Next Wednesday, the case of the youngest person to sit on Oregon’s Death Row will reach the Supreme Court. The justices will consider whether a jury pondering death is obligated to re-evaluate any lingering doubts about the defendant’s guilt. The “facts” of the case make a riveting story of good and evil. But “truth” is elusive. Many will cheer if Lee Guzek is put to death, waiting once more to pronounce “justice served.”

But is it? Did you miss another milestone? In November of this year, the State of Texas admitted it wrongly executed a man now proven to be innocent of the crime for which he was put to death in 1993. Ruben Cantu was falsely accused and falsely convicted. Texas officials have belatedly acknowledged their error.

Courts make mistakes. People lie. Juries get confused. Judges look the other way. Facts are not always true or false. Evidence gets lost or never found. Witnesses die or can’t be found. Misidentification is common. Eyewitnesses disagree. What if it was you? What better reason for abolishing the barbaric practice of murdering convicts? “Beyond a reasonable doubt” still leaves room for innocence.

It’s too far to travel this time. But I will light a candle on December 13th and remember other times I stood in the rain outside San Quentin protesting the death penalty. Will you join me in this protest?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Let’s sing!

O Christmas Tree…O Christmas Tree...

Ooops. Make that O Yule Tree…O Yule Tree...

Still not right. O Holiday Tree…O Holiday Tree...

Haven’t got it yet. Then how ‘bout O Not-Any-Special-Occasion Tree…

Enough already! The Portland Political Correctness Police have targeted the tree in Pioneer Square as a battleground for the Constitutional division between Church and State; and a feud has erupted in Portland’s “living room” as various factions square off about what exactly to call the conifer that looms there, covered with lights and looking very festive. But not…god (pun intended) forbid…a Christmas Tree.

What has happened here in our knee-jerk reaction to fundamentalist Christians becoming the enemy and by association all Christians? Now we have the zealots saying it is not acceptable to celebrate a religious holiday in a public place. Ever. What’s next? Will Hallmark stores have to keep Christmas cards behind the counter like Playboy? And what about all that gift merchandise at Wal-Mart with Santa Claus on the package? How…in the name of you know who…do you take the Christ out of Christmas. And why? No matter how commercialized the holiday season has become, a predominantly Christian nation who trusts in God does celebrate Christmas in some religious manner. Maybe some of them would like to be able to admit that out loud.

Well…I don’t want the rabid religious right chosing my President, but I don’t want the other side taking away my Christmas Tree either. So I am singing at the top of my voice!

O Christmas Tree…O Christmas Tree…

Friday, December 02, 2005

Sounds of a Winter Night

Farther up The Gorge, two feet of snow fell during the night, soundlessly while people slept. Here at the West End, rain clattered on my roof with a vengeance, overflowing the gutters and dripping down by my bedroom window. Above the storm, the sounds of urban life pierced the rain curtain. The faint jet roar of planes headed to PDX and the whirrrr of the Life Flight helicopter rescuing someone from a wreck on I-84. The pulsing chug of the freight train building up speed for the long climb up The Gorge and out to the High Desert. Underneath is the hum of snow tires on the freeway. A siren whines somewhere. A dog barks. Someone’s car alarm is triggered by the wind.

Inside, the dogs stir in their crates. Lenny sits on the couch by the window and emits his long dormant tom-cat call to the pretty female kitty next door. In the wee pre-dawn hours, the furnace kicks on despite the turned-down thermostat as the temperature falls toward freezing. The midnight arrival of Winter in Oregon invites sleepers to snuggle down under the covers and be thankful they are indoors and not sleeping in a doorway or under one of Portland’s many bridges. This is not a night to be homeless.

Before first light, the neighborhood begins to stir. The man next door slams his truck doors, goes back inside for something he forgot, slams them again, warms up the engine and finally his bright headlights flash across my ceiling as he pulls out and heads off. Down the street, another man has trouble starting his van, and the woman with the Mustang revs up her machine. More dogs are barking now and the traffic noises pick up in volume.

We’re awake and the sound of the coffee maker is both the last sound of the night and the first sound of the morning.